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LA Galaxy 2021 Player Postmortem: Séga Coulibaly

Newcomer played heavy minutes after arrival.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at LA Galaxy Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Séga Coulibaly was part of the massive changes brought to the LA Galaxy roster during the 2021 season. The center back arrived from French second division side Nancy in late-April, and after making his arrival and going through quarantine and all of that, he made his debut in mid-June after the league break.

Coulibaly played major minutes for most of the rest of the season, aside from most of July when he was out with an injury. Greg Vanney seemed to like the former French youth international and coming in during a point in the season when the Galaxy really needed experienced bodies in central defense, he filled a role.

Here are Coulibaly’s stats with the Galaxy in 2021:

Sega Coulibaly 2021 LA Galaxy Statistics

2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS 19 17 1,422 0 0 2 0 1 0

On the surface, the numbers look decent for Coulibaly, but his advanced stats, when compared to other players at his position in MLS, are not nearly as kind.

FBref.com Logo Séga Coulibaly Scouting Report Table
Statistic Per 90 Percentile
Non-Penalty Goals 0.00
23
npxG 0.01
10
Shots Total 0.13
6
Assists 0.00
34
xA 0.00
10
npxG+xA 0.01
5
Shot-Creating Actions 0.38
29
Passes Attempted 61.44
95
Pass Completion % 88.1%
73
Progressive Passes 3.17
70
Progressive Carries 3.42
89
Dribbles Completed 0.38
66
Touches (Att Pen) 0.38
8
Progressive Passes Rec 0.32
74
Pressures 8.55
36
Tackles 1.20
24
Interceptions 1.58
21
Blocks 1.65
49
Clearances 4.69
47
Aerials won 2.47
66
Provided by FBref.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/28/2021.

This table, courtesy of FBRef.com (you can find a link as well here), shows Coulibaly is well above average in terms of playing with the ball, demonstrating his ability as a ball-playing center back, something that is increasingly relied-upon in the modern game. But in terms of the defensive advanced categories, he was below average in everything except aerial duels. So he’s got the size, he can play the ball well, but in terms of actual defending...there’s work to be done.

It would be unfair to pin the blame of LA’s second-half collapse in 2021 to Coulibaly, but the defense got weaker and weaker as the games piled up, and that’s when he was in the lineup, admittedly. It’s also worth remembering the whole team slumped down the stretch, but the defense went from a feeling of belief in a manager who just may structure things well enough to get them on the right path, to realizing they still weren’t on firm ground and hitting a wall, hard. Vanney made plenty of changes — some necessary, others done to try and shake things up — but the team that looked like they would comfortably make the playoffs ended up missing out, and showed there’s more work to be done.

As far as Coulibaly, obviously his path forward could go in a couple directions. Coming off a half-season plus of soccer in France before joining the Galaxy midseason, like many imports he may just need some time to fully acclimate and a full offseason of rest and preparation may do him a world of good. If that happens, perhaps he levels up, and considering he’s only 25 he still has time to really develop his game.

On the other hand, he may be good with the ball but ultimately a limited defender in MLS, time will tell. If this turns out to be the case it’s going to be yet another example of the Galaxy opting for a defender from abroad who can’t cut it, with a few too many situations of this nature in recent years.

Obviously it would be nice if Coulibaly comes good in 2022. He’s an engaging guy and I could easily see him become a fan favorite if he settles and becomes dominant. But LA fans want winners and he’ll need to perform to get supporters’ full admiration, so we’ll see if he can do that next season. If he did, that would help the team with a pretty significant boost and no need to get another player, so I’m assuming they’re pulling for him to come to grips with MLS next year, too.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.